What's Causing Your Ankles To Pop So Loudly?

If you find yourself frequently embarrassed by the popping and snapping noises coming from south of your knees, you may wonder whether there's anything you can do about ankle pops short of avoiding physical activity entirely. Fortunately, while they may sound alarming, these pops are rarely a sign of any orthopedic issues. Read on to learn more about a few of the most common causes of frequently-popping ankles, as well as what you can do to treat this issue.

Why Do Ankles Pop?

Every joint is capable of "popping"—or releasing air—although popping one's fingers, toes, or neck is generally much more enjoyable than popping one's knee or elbow. Because the ankle is one of the most structurally complex joints in the entire body, it can "pop" in several different directions, which may be one reason it seems as though your ankle pops far more often than other joints.

But if you've noticed that your ankle seems to be popping even more frequently lately, or if others have commented on the alarming noises your ankle makes, it's possible that you could be dealing with one of several orthopedic conditions. These include tendon and ligament injuries and a condition called osteochondritis dessicans (OCD), where a loose piece of bone forms within the ankle.

One common tendon issue is peroneal tendon instability, or a weakness of the tendons that border the left and right sides of your ankle. These tendons are designed to fit tightly against the bone to help keep your ankle from wobbling internally; however, if these tendons are weakened by age, injury, or high-impact sports, the tendon may slip away from the bone like a loose rubber band. This means that the popping noise you're hearing is actually the sound of your tendons snapping against the bone. If you tend to roll your ankles frequently or have suffered a serious ankle sprain in the past and are now noticing an increase in popping, it may be due to weakened peroneal tendons.

The orthopedic OCD can also be attributed to repetitive stress or past injuries to the ankle. If you sometimes feel your ankle "catch" while you're moving it, this may be due to a small loose piece of bone that is deep within the ankle's structure.

What Are Your Treatment Options?

If you're diagnosed with peroneal tendon instability or OCD, your treatment options will likely depend on the degree to which your ankle is causing you issues. In some cases, no treatment is necessary; in others, physical therapy, the use of a compression sleeve or brace, or surgical ligament tightening may provide some relief. Ask an ankle doctor if you're not sure.